The book a day challenge.

School’s out for summer!  Schooooool’s out for EVER!  (Actually, it’s just out for eight weeks, but since I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, Alice Cooper has greatly impacted how I say that first sentence.)

Oh Gentle Reader, I can’t even explain to you how ready I am for this summer break.  No more pre-algebra, no more science labs, so more feeling like I’m not getting everything done.  It’s a chance to unwind, relax, and read a million bajillion books.

Or, maybe just forty.

Yes, my goal for the summer (besides keeping the children physically and emotionally stable) is to read forty books.  But because it’s summer these books are going to be just for fun, they will serve no higher purpose than to entertain my summer loving self.  So some days they will be juicy adult novels and other days they will be helpful books on gardening and other days they will be gritty and raw YA books and other days they will be adorable picture books.  Because just like food, I like a varied diet in my reading.

This book a day challenge was started by one of my heroes in reading:  Donalyn Miller.  She is exactly who I am trying to be as I grow up, except for a few minor differences (such as she is a public school teacher and I am a homeschooling teacher, so she influences the reading lives of hundreds and hundreds of students and I influence the reading lives of three.  Whatever.  Potato, Po-tah-to.)

The idea behind the book a day challenge is to read for fun during the summer and share those books you enjoyed so that others will be encouraged to read for fun as well.  I love reading for fun and I love blogging about what I’ve been reading, so this challenge is rather perfect for me.


Here are some of the books that I’ve been reading lately.

The Throne of Glass series (Sarah J. Maas)  This is a high fantasy Young Adult series that features a kick-butt assassin/heroine who happens to love fashion and dancing (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but more archaic.)  These books hit all the right notes for me:  classic world-building, solid writing, strong and dynamic characters, secret passageways, nice undercurrents of sexual tension, and outlawed, mystical magic.  Even the obligatory and wretched YA love triangle was handled skillfully.
My advice to you is to read the first book in the series, Throne of Glass, first, then read the prequel book of four short stories, The Assassin’s Blade, second.  Then you can read Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire, after which you can then wait miserably with the rest of us as we mark the passing days until Queen of Shadows is released (only 82 more days!)

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Julie Berry)  This YA/middle grade book was highly recommended to me by a GoodReads friend, but when I started it, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  However, as the chapters progressed I enjoyed the juxtaposition between comedy and morbid gruesomeness more and more.
The plot revolves around a group of Victorian schoolgirls who attempt to hide the death of their dour schoolmistress and live in adult-less splendor.  However things quickly go awry, as they always do.  Frankly, it’s like a Dicken’s version of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.  Are you intrigued yet?  You should be.
The Third Wife (Lisa Jewell)  I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this adult novel filled with suspense and intrigue about modern family relationships.  Did Adrian’s third wife suffer a tragic accident?  Or was it suicide?  What role did Adrian’s former two wives and his children play, if any?
The characters are beautifully flawed (and therefore entirely realistic and fully formed.)  Ms. Jewell’s writing is pleasingly complex and the novel’s structure between the present and the past made it almost impossible for me to predict exactly who did what and when.  And don’t you just love a good who-dun-it story when you can’t figure out the ending?  I know I do.  Overall, this is a great summer read.
Read Between the Lines (Jo Knowles)  This grim, yet ultimately optimistic YA novel is the best thing I’ve read in months.  Told in a series of short (but emotionally detailed) stories set at a local high school, Jo Knowles creates a gorgeous web of cause and effect.
This book made me think (and think and think) about how each of us impacts the lives of the people around us for good and for evil.
This book is gritty and realistic, so if you don’t enjoy reading situations (and four letter words) of this nature, this is not the summer read for you.  But I absolutely adored it.
Rules of Summer (Shaun Tan)  This picture book is not geared toward children.  Not really.  It truly takes an older person to appreciate the emotional and stark, industrial nature of the illustrations in this book.
Let me state honestly and unequivocally that I do not understand this book in the slightest.  I really don’t.  It seems to be some dark fantasy created by a younger boy describing the lessons he learnt over the summer with his older brother.  However, there are poignant snippets of text that touch me on a Where the Wild Things Are-level:  “Never wait for an apology” or “Always know the way home.”
It’s disturbing and confusing and lovely and weird all at the same time.  So for that reason I am recommending it.

So there you are, Gentle Reader, some of the best books I’ve read lately.  What books do you plan on reading this summer?  Share below.

Posted in books | 6 Comments

They will listen.

My husband looked at our twelve year old daughter the other night and had one of those parenting moments.  You know the ones, where you look at your offspring and see them not only as your child, but as their own separate individual.  You see this person you’ve known, for what feels like forever, and catch a glimpse of not only their infinite potential but also their future adulthood.

My normally teasing husband, struck by how quickly our little girl is growing up, said with serious sincerity, “Trinity, you are really beautiful.”

“I know,” she matter of factly replied in a voice full of quiet confidence.

Caught unprepared by this response, my husband laughed and asked, “Oh really, and how do you know that?”

Trinity looked up from her book and answered, “Mom told me.”

Christmas 2014

They listen, Gentle Reader, our children listen to what we say to them.  Even when it looks like they’re ignoring us or tuning us out.  They hear our words, the things we tell them, the words we call them, and they believe us, for better or for worse.

I only hope that my words have always been for better.



Posted in parenting, The Big Girl | 2 Comments

This must be how Martha Stewart feels all year.

There is a week in the spring when all the planets align and my flower garden in the front yard achieves near perfection. Lilacs bloom with the first wave of peonies, while the iris let their gorgeous grandeur be felt, and columbines flower in lovely purple clumps here and there throughout the garden.  The blueberry bushes have blossomed and their leaves are green and red tipped while all my decorative pots have been filled with colorful annuals and dark green herbs.  We leave our front windows open to catch the intoxicating scent of lilacs and peonies and peppermint whenever the wind blows.


It is the one week of the year when I feel like our house is a genuine show-stopper and that I am a domestic goddess (despite the fact that my husband does most of the hard labor.)  The reassurance I get when I look at the garden during this week compensates for the 36 or so weeks out of the year when school in session and I have clean laundry piled in baskets throughout the living room and dirty dishes in the sink.

I need this week long floral extravaganza for my sanity, Gentle Reader.  It’s a necessity.  Which is exactly what I tell my husband every spring when we’re at the nursery center spending more money than he thinks we should.


This magical, florally life affirming week happened just a few days ago.  This year there were a few additions to the garden that made everything that much more amazing, at least to my incredibly biased eyes.

I received a potting bench for my birthday this year which gives the whole garden a certain professional pizzazz.  Additionally, when my mother moved and down-sized her belongings, I inherited her old pickling crocks and pans that give everything an old fashioned, charming feel.


Now, if I only had room somewhere for a trellis with climbing clematis flowers, my life would be complete.

Happy sigh.

This must be how Martha Stewart feels all year long.

Posted in gardening | 2 Comments

My favorite quotes for Mother’s Day.

I have lots of thoughts and feelings about mothers.  I have one, I am one.  My first and strongest belief is that some of the best mothers on this planet have never given birth to a child.  I know some of these ladies personally.  They adopt, they foster, they teach, and they love unconditionally, and they are true mothers, despite their lack of a birth story.  I look to them for inspiration and direction when I have questions or doubts about my own mothering abilities.

In honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday and as a tribute to all the mothers (biological or not) whom I admire and love, here are my favorite quotes about the wonderful and exhausting task of being a mom.

Bunker g-ma


“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.”
–Robert A. Heinlein


“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had…and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.”
–Linda Wooten


“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
― Debra Ginsberg


“Be a Mother who is committed to loving her children into standing on higher ground than the enviroment surrounding them. Mothers are endowed with a love that is unlike any other love on the face of the earth.”
― Marjorie Pay Hinckley


“Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark…to have been loved so deeply…will give us some protection forever.”
–J.K. Rowling


“A mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled.”
–Emily Dickinson


“There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child- and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own.
–Robert Brault


“It is the custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtinesses and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.”
― J.M. Barrie


“Mother is a verb, not a noun.”


“Mothers can forgive anything! Tell me all, and be sure that I will never let you go, though the whole world should turn from you.”
― Louisa May Alcott, Jo’s Boys


“My parents elected me president of the family when I was four.  We actually had an election every year and I always won.  I’m an only child, and I could count on my mother’s vote.”
–Condoleezza Rice


“When they’ve finished reading, Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, ‘You know, you really wear me out.  But I love you anyway.’  And Olivia gives her a kiss back and says, ‘I love you anyway too.'”
–Ian Falconer, Olivia


“A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
–Tenneva Jordan


“Gilbert put his arm about them. ‘Oh, you mothers!’ he said. ‘You mothers! God knew what He was about when He made you.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams


“Mothers are all slightly insane.”
–J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye


“They came to her, naturally, since she was a woman, all day long with this and that; one wanting this another that; the children were growing up; she often felt she was nothing but a sponge sopped full of human emotions.”
–Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse


“Isn’t that what I always think when I get The Poor Motherless Girl Look?  Like I’ve been shoved out of the airplane without a parachute, because mothers are the parachutes.”
–Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You the Sun


“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”

― Roald Dahl, Matilda


“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.”
–Oprah Winfrey



And finally when I think about the endless and eternal list of small, monotonous tasks it takes to raise children and to love them fiercely, this quote makes me feel infinitely better about my lot in life.

“It all matters.  That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the windblown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing.  What is most beautiful is least acknowledged.  What is worth dying for is barely noticed.”
–Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise





Posted in Holidays, lists, parenting, Whoops. Got Lazy. | 3 Comments

When the dog bites, when the bee stings (when I’m feeling sad.)

April has been a tough month over here, Gentle reader.  I feel as though all those spring showers have not only flooded my yard, but they’ve soaked my soul a bit.  Too much distressing news, too much stress, too many emotional days, too little exercise, too many carbs:  it’s all combined to made me feel frayed at the edges and flat out sad.  In the words of Spock, I freely admit that I have been emotionally compromised.

I’m at the point when I want to shake my fist at the sky and shout (politely, of course) “Time out, please!  I call time out!”  However, I’m pretty sure that God and the powers that be don’t exactly grant time outs (or do overs, which really would have come in handy last week.)

So I’m doing what I always do when everything gets to be too much:  I channel my inner Julie Andrews (we all have one) and start appreciating the numerous, smaller bits of wonderfulness in my life while I wait (slightly impatiently) for the bigger items to get their act together.

Here’s what is helping me survive the blues today:


1.  Our peach trees has buds on it for the first time which means there is a good possibility of home grown peaches this year.  Those blossoms were the most ridiculously gorgeous shade of pink and they made life feel just a tad bit rosier.


2.  Without any watering, weeding, or working our rhubarb plants have sprung into action and have produced pounds and pounds of tangy fruit that is just begging to be put into a dessert of some sort.  So I’m getting my Great British Bake Off on and making a few delectable items to eat this week.

3.  We inherited some new bedroom furniture this weekend and the budget has enough leeway in it to allow for new linen (from sheets to comforter.)  Even better, the husband has agreed that for my birthday next month he will paint the room whatever color I choose.  After fifteen years of marriage I will have properly decorated, color coordinated grown up space to sleep in, instead of a hodge-podge of a room that acts as a catch-all for any item without a home.

4.  Our asparagus is out of control, in the most delicious way.  Today (thanks to the rain last night) all the spears are a good four inches taller than yesterday.  So for lunch we’re having bacon wrapped asparagus that was just cut this morning.  Bacon makes everything better.

5.  My daughter has discovered a few of the authors I loved when I was her age.  Trinity’s in love with anything by Mary Downing Hahn (Wait Till Helen Comes scared the pants off me, mostly because no one in their right mind wants Helen to arrive.)  My daughter just finished I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan and agreed with me that the biggest lesson learned there is if you run over somebody with your car, you need to get out and help them- not drive away dummies.  (Seriously, this should be mandatory reading in Drivers Ed.  Hit and run accidents would drop by 70%, at least.)

It’s nice that for all the differences between our two generations there are certain things that never change- like good books.

6,  My cat, sensing that I’ve got the blues, follows me around the house and whenever I sit down for a bit (even in the bathroom) he lays on my feet and purrs directly onto my toes.  It’s highly therapeutic (despite the invasion of my potty time privacy) and makes me feel loved from top to bottom.

7.  The blueberry bushes we planted two years ago are still alive, despite the harsh winters they’ve endured.  I’m convinced that it is solely because I did my best Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans impression last fall when I urged them to “Stay alive!  No matter what occurs!  Stay alive!”  (I loved that movie in my college days and I’m convinced that part of the reason I fell in love with my husband is that not only did he own that movie, he had the soundtrack as well.)


8.  The wee birdbath that my mother gave me this weekend is absolutely perfect in my flower garden.  All the rain has filled it up and I find it so charming and so lovely that in moments of quiet desperation I just look at it, while taking deep breaths, and the world is suddenly bearable once again.


9.  My mother also gave me her spice stand, which enables me to see all my herbs (pronounced with the “h,” of course, to sound more like Martha Stewart) and spices at once, without having to turn anything or knock anything down.  It is absurd how happy I get seeing all my seasonings at one glance, but it’s the small delights that make life bearable.

Especially when it seems life is hellbent on making you do the ugly cry.

Gentle Reader, it’s a rainy Monday morning here (and I’m sure elsewhere) and no doubt there are many of you who are a bit down.  What little things are making you happy?

Posted in rantings and ravings | 7 Comments

Spring Break reading.

We are not on Spring Break, here at Bunkersdown.  We took our break in February when we escaped to Florida for a few days.  However, everyone else in Indianapolis is on their Spring Break this week and a good number of them keep knocking on our door to see if the kids can play.

I am not a slave-master (contrary to what my children believe), and when the sun shines we should spend more time outside, so this week we are giving our math and history books a lick and a promise and slowing down our school schedule in order for a little more socializing.

As a result I’ve had more time than usual to read this week and I’ve taken incredible advantage of it.  Here are some of the better reads I’ve enjoyed lately.

The Giver (Lois Lowry) How on earth did I manage to miss out on reading this novel for the past twenty years?  I have no clue.  None.
If you are person who is even more behind on reading the Young Adult classics than I am and you’ve never experienced this book let me tell you now:  Get on it.  Read this thing.  Read it now.
I read this book with my two oldest children and it was a fabulous experience.  We discussed topics such as the cost of love, the power of choice, the safety of obedience. We had conversations about utopias and dystopias and the many opias in between the two extremes.  To me, it was the best novel we shared together all year and so many things were learned- especially by me.

Texts From Jane Eyre (Mallory Ortberg)  This is a spoofy novel that is made for people who love literature.  Mallory Ortberg creatively and hilariously writes text messages between various literary characters and authors.  Read in one complete sitting, this book grows a little tiresome, so I suggest savoring the sections bit by bit at night in your bed like fine chocolates, just try not to laugh so loud that you wake up your spouse.
My favorite parts of this book are the Edgar Allen Poe texts, the Medea texts, and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock texts (I love that poem and its messages were utterly sublime.)
While being familiar with the various authors and books mentioned is helpful, it is not absolutely necessary.  I have never read Daisy Miller, but those sections were still incredibly funny to me.
There is some salty language (I mean seriously, Lord Byron has to be creepy and use the f-word a lot, right?) so if these things really offend you, this might not be the book for you.

How Your Body Works: The Ultimate Guide (Thomas Canavan)  This is, by far, the best children’s nonfiction book I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  Not only is the narration clear, concise, and accurate, it is written perfectly for younger people.  The pages are arranged attractively with excellent illustrations and photographs.  Besides the well written text there are random fact bubbles throughout the book, that my son particularly enjoyed.  Each chapter also suggests easy, at home labs you and your child can do to further understand the information presented.
My favorite thing about this book is that the photographs include people of all ages and colors, accurately portraying the human race as the diverse group of people it is.
How Your Body Works: The Ultimate Guide is a book that every library (be it family, school, or public) should have.  I will definitely be purchasing my own copy as soon as possible.

Wishful Thinking (Kamy Wicoff)  What is Spring Break without a little fluff?  And believe me, Gentle Reader, Wishful Thinking is superior fluff.
The novel starts out as a typical single mother, how-does-she-do-it-all story, but then things get interesting in a hurry. The book takes on science fiction tones when the main character receives a telephone app that enables her to be in two places at one time, enabling her to be the overworked employee that her boss requires while being the mother that her children need. Throw in a potential love interest, conflicts with her ex-husband, an interesting best friend, and a competitive co-worker and Wishful Thinking becomes more than just ordinary chick-lit, it becomes chick-lit on steroids.
(Random aside:  I hate the term “chick-lit” because I feel in my literary heart it’s derogatory, but I have no other term to use for this style of book.  Somebody help me.)
The book does have its flaws.  Like many other books in this genre, I found the entire plot to be overly predictable.  There was never any doubt in my mind how this storyline was going to end.  However, despite knowing where the final destination was, I had a fun time getting there.  Which, is really, all you can ask from a fun, fluffy piece of fiction while enjoying what is not Spring Break.

So that’s what I’ve been reading over here at Bunkersdown.  What have you been reading lately?


(In the interest of full disclosure:  I occasionally receive advanced reader copies from Netgalley in exchange for my honest and sincere review.)

Posted in books | 2 Comments

Spring madness.

It’s spring, Gentle Reader.  It’s spring!  The daffodils are beginning to bloom, the sun has decided to shine in Indiana once again, the grocery stores are full of jelly beans, tiny buds are growing on the trees,  and the chickens have upped the number of eggs they’re laying.


Ah, spring.  We’ve missed you.

I can also tell it’s spring because the kids have been digging into their summer clothes.  Closets are in complete shambles around here as the children change their clothes several times a day, but it feels so nice to have the cooler air on our arms and legs.  It almost feels like we’re waking up from a long winter’s nap.

Everyday we open up the windows and let in the fresh breeze.  Of course, after the sun sets we run around, shivering, while we close them until tomorrow, but it’s worth it.  I think we’ve all been stifled with stale air for too long here at Bunkersdown.

Last week I worked in the garden for the first time this year.  It was heavenly.  And messy.  My peas, beets, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and bok choy are all planted.  I feel almost a spiritual hunger to eat fresh things, healthy things.

My annual need to cleanse and purge through all our clutter has hit, right on schedule.  Spring makes me want to clean and freshen up and tidy everything in sight.

I’m taking the whole purging thing a bit more seriously this year.  (The girls have put their stuffed animals in the Witness Protection Program.)  My goal is to give or throw away 100 things from each room and after only three rooms we’re already on our second minivan-ful of donations to the Salvation Army.  The kitchen filled half of its quota when I simply cleaned out the silverware drawer.  Baby spoons- gone!  There are no babies here.  Rusted cheese knives- trashed!  Only shiny things are allowed here.  Rusted canning lids- recycled!  I’ve got newer ones I can use.

Soon spring will feel ordinary and everyday.  We’ll start taking the sun for granted again.  We won’t marvel at the green shoots that emerge from the ground.  My inner fire for cleaning will diminish and the kitchen island will get cluttered again.  But for right now it all feels new and clean and miraculous.

Ah spring, we’ve missed you.

Posted in rantings and ravings, Whoops. Got Lazy. | 2 Comments